Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Extra, Extra, Read all about it!

Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing, has his photograph adorning one of the walls in my work-space. Yes, my mother is there somewhere in the background among the crowd, I not being totally unsentimental. Thoth, however, is front and centre. You, dear reader, are also likely happy that he gave us the gift of literacy. But not us at all. No, the gift of literacy was not meant for mere common folks like us, it was reserved for priests, and that until only recently, till the time of Martin Luther, Johan Gutenberg, and especially John Wesley. Most of us don't take seriously the significance of our right to read and write. Most of us have never lived in an obscurantist state of primitive fascists who kill those who question their limited view of reality and the authority they base it on. Read a book; ask a question; get murdered. It ain't the American way. It is the way of fascism, Left, Right, or Muslim. We see the evidence of it in small ways to date in the West, the hatred and violence directed at those who question authority of the powers as they are: in the West we have obscurantists at wikipedia and indymedia and chock-a-block at our universities; there are book-burners lurking everywhere at Stormfront and associated sites, those who would, as Heine points out, begin by burning books, and who would end burning people; and there is Islam. We in the West take for granted that we should be sensitive to the feelings of others in our speech; that we shouldn't read things that might give us bad ideas about some members of our general societies; that we shouldn't read hate sites like-- well, no dhimmitude, for example. We give back to the mystic priests, the gnostics, our right to read, tossing over our gift from Thoth to those who would rule us arbitrarily. We don't do this all of a rush, we do it incrementally, nodding when we hear from others that "hate speech is not free speech." We do so when we listen to those who quote Chomsky and when we say nothing about the drivel they speak. We give up our freedom to read and think about our world and our lives as individuals when we put up with rubbish cliches from dilettante Leftists who shriek: "Give back to the community." I look at Thoth, and I see him wink at me.

Thursday evenings we meet at the Vancouver Public Library in the atrium from 7-9:00 pm to sit and discuss the nature of our relationship to our nations and our course of action to make our lives freer and more fulfilling than they will be if we do nothing more than nothing, allowing the creeping fascism of the Left to continue its work with fascist Islam to curtail and eventually destroy our right to read and to think and to speak freely. To do nothing to resist the fascism of the Left and Islam is to aid them in their quest to destroy our individualist nations, to draw a veil over the minds of the people, to enslave the world and turn all into farm animals tended by the gnostic elites of the dead past still jerking and kicking in our present time. We will be ruled by the dead if we do nothing more than nothing. I read this in the eyes of Thoth.

Plato writes that Socrates said in the Phaedrus that we should not read but that we should rely on our memories to have information and the voices of the far away and the dead in our minds. Socrates, writes Plato, condemns Thoth. He is not the only one; and in our day, more and more join his chorus.

Gutenberg took the books of our world out of the stained hands of the monastic scribes and put them into the hands of the people, most of whom couldn't read. For those who could, who could read English, "Tynedale (sometimes spelled Tindale or Tindall) (circa 1494 - October 6, 1536) was a 16th century religious reformer and scholar who translated the Bible into the Early Modern English of his day. Although numerous partial and complete English translations had been made from the 7th century onward, Tyndale's was the first to take advantage of the new medium of print, which allowed for its wide distribution. In 1535 Tyndale was tried for heresy and treason and then strangled and burnt at the stake," [], tried to make available a Bible commoners could read by themselves without intercession by priests. Of course, for his efforts he was murdered. We, to a lesser extent, meeting as we do on Thursday evenings in the public library, face a similar threat. We are nearing our first full year of weekly meetings. We carry on, as did Tynedale. We discuss books and ideas.

We read that the Muslim conquest was a great benefit to the West, one reason being the introduction to Europe of paper. "Although it was the Arabs who introduced paper into Europe in the 8th century (after learning how to manufacture it from the Chinese when they captured Samarkand in 704) they rejected mechanical book printing for centuries because it was an infidel invention unsanctioned by Allah." (Peter Mansfield, The Arabs, p. 117.) Bernard Lewis, an apologist for the Turks, as a rule, writes; "The Turkish printing press, which flourished in the first half of the 18th century, printed in all 17 books...." (Lewis, 2001: p. 140.) He also writes: "Islam's first printing press was introduced in 1728. Started by Ibrahim Muteferrika, a Hungarian seminarist in Turkey." (ibid; p. 28.) Mansfield writes, p.157, that he "Had to close his shop in 1745. Mullahs prohibited printing presses." Why," you ask, dear reader? "Printing presses were banned on the grounds that the word "Allah" could be composed in type that would be cleaned of ink by a brush that could contain pig bristles." (Boorstin, 1985: pp. 543-547.) The printing press came to Egypt in 1798 when Napoleon brought one to Alexandria to use as a propaganda organ. "The first Turkish newspaper, The Monitor, published on May 14, 1832, became almost immediately a government mouthpiece." (Lewis, 2001.)

Thoth tells me this is William Bullock's birthday. Maybe I even read it somewhere. Bullock is one of the many heroes of our Modern world most of us have rightly never heard of or read about. He invented the off-set printing press, an invention that makes possible cheap books for peasants like me. I don't have to be a baron to buy a psalter from the monastery. I don't have to be an illiterate fellah listening to the muezzin shrieking: "Death to Israel! Death to America!" to get my news of the day and my received opinions of the world I live in and my place in it. No, thanks to Thoth and Bullock and numerous others I can sit at the library and discuss with friends the nature of things as I understand them from years of living in a world of free literacy. And I can value this experience from having spent years in places where knowledge is restricted to the elite who guard it so jealously that they murder those who challenge them for its possession.

Books are worthless if there are too few of them and if they're too dear to have. Ideas and opinions are equally worthless if you're afraid to express them and discuss them in public. William Bullock gave us a gift almost as important as that from Thoth. Share it with us, you stingy bastard. Join us at the library, or go to the library near you and invite your friends to discuss the nature of our struggle against jihad and Left dhimmi fascism, two evil forces that will first burn our books and later us as well.
William Bullock (1813–April 12, 1867) was an American inventor whose 1863 invention of the web rotary printing press helped revolutionize the printing industry due to its great speed and efficiency. A few years after his invention, Bullock was accidentally killed by his own web rotary press.

Bullock was born in Greenville, New York in 1813. Orphaned at an early age, he was raised by his brother. In his youth, he worked with his brother as a machinist and iron-founder, and his fascination with books led him to acquire much knowledge of mechanics. At age 21, he was running his own machinery shop in Savannah, Georgia. At this time, Bullock invented a shingle-cutting machine, but his business went broke when he was unable to market it.

Bullock returned to New York and designed such devices as a cotton and hay press, a seed planter, and a lathe cutting machine. He also invented a grain drill, which won him a prize from the Franklin Institute in 1849. Shortly after this, he became involved in the newspaper world, and began working as and editor for a Philadelphia newspaper, The Banner of the Union.

The paper later moved to Catskill, New York, and in 1853, he began working on a hand-turned wooding printing press that had a self-feeder, an idea that laid the foundation for his later presses. One of which he designed in 1860 for the national publication Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly.

In 1860 Bullock moved to Pittsburgh, and in a couple of years, perfected a printing press called the web rotary press. Richard March Hoe had invented the rotary press in the 1840s, but Bullock's press was an improvement over Hoe's design. Bullock's press allowed for continuous large rolls of paper to be automatically fed through the rollers, eliminating the laborious hand feeding system of earlier presses. The press was self-adjusting, printed on both sides, folded the paper, and a sharp serrated knife that rarely needed sharpening cut sheets with rapid precision. The press could print up to 12,000 sheets an hour, and later improvement had the figure up to 30,000 sheets an hour.

In a bizarre accident, Bullock was killed by his own invention. On April 3, 1867, he was making adjustments to one of his new presses that was being installed for the Philadelphia Public Ledger newspaper. Bullock tried to kick a driving belt onto a pulley, when his leg became caught in the machine. His leg was crushed and broken, and after a few days, gangrene set in. On April 12, 1867, Bullock died during an operation to amputate the leg.

Thursday evening, 7-9:00 pm. VPL atrium. We sit by Blenz coffee bar wearing blue scarves. Join us.


Charles Henry said...

Socrates may have decried Thoth, but I feel safe in asserting he would have relented his position, had he lived long enough to read Kenneth Robeson's wonderful Doc Savage pulp novels, of which the Man of Bronze was the first.
What a shock to see one of my favorite childhood memories emblazoned at the top of this post! I'm afraid I'll be too busy reminiscing to comment on the other points for a while..
(the best Doc Savage story was the second one, with the dinosaurs... The Land of Terror!)

dag said...

Loved the ending where the bad guy has a choice of dying by lava floe or turning, which he does, to be eaten by the monster dinosaur who is in turn melted by lava, a kind of double death for the bad guy.

It's the kid in me.

tiberge said...

Enjoyed the article, Dag. I think Socrates has a good point. and I'm sure Plato agreed on the same grounds as he disdained theater - it brings out the worst, most emotional, possibly irrational side of people. The problem with books is not the books themselves, but how to know what to read. People can go hog-wild over inane ideas they find in books and children can be completely indoctrinated by bad books. Only experience plus knowledge handed down from our elders can point us to the books that are going to help us and not hurt us. Of the two, experience is more important, since lore can be fallacious. But there's something else and I don't know what to call it except 'nature' - our inner nature determines whether or not we learn the lessons that our experiences make obvious. Or whether we refuse to learn them and continue on an erroneous path.

It's all uncertain: a person laden with diplomas who has read hundreds of books can still arrive at fallacious conclusions. And a simple worker with little education can see more clearly. So emotions enter into it even when there are no books, or few.

Still, I buy more books than I can ever read. I look back in anger at the time I wasted trying to make sense of bad books with bad ideas that nonetheless sounded impressive. The Internet is good because if I find a blogger I like, then I more or less trust his opinion on books. Reading those reviews at Amazon sometimes helps, too.

dag said...

I think of literacy as akin to Prometheus bringing Man the gift of fire: both are easily misused and easily justifed in the doing so. Literacy is improtant only insofaras people use it wisely and temperately. If they use it to neglect other important aspects of their lives and the lives of the polis, then it's worthless or even harmful to them and others. Plato iis right that memory suffers from the ease of books; but who has an eidetic memory? and what happens when that person dies or moves away in any other sense? I look at books as a way of communicating with the dead. I see real people in books, especially as I age; and see that though someone might have written the Epic of Gilgamesh thousands of years ago he is really not too much different from me and my concerns about life after death and the meaning of it all. Books are my hand holding the hand of the dead. but those lives aren't mine. I have to distinguish between those who are obviously brilliant and those who are so and also honest and insightful. But i can only judge that on my own terms, not knowing how others will read and understand the same text I read. So I hope that people will read many authors on many topics and focus on something to learn well and examine closely with the goal of not concluding but of becoming resigned to endless and happy curiousity. The voices of the dead and the lives of the living are important, and I hope that people have the god sense to choose their books with the same critical concern with which they pick their friends. That is, too often, exactly so. But if people have a wide array of friends with whom they can compare themselves, learn from, compete with, it's better than hermitage. Some people have a wide variety of criminal friends. There's only so much one can hope for.

I celebrate Kenneth Robeson above and William Bullock especially because they bring to Everyman the chance to learn through literature, however basic. In my own life I went from reading Doc Savage novels to reading Leibnitz. There was little transition for me. Books were rare. I took what I could get. Thanks to Tynedale and Wesley and Bullock and many others, I and others like me have a chance to learn what we can and then test it against reality if we so choose-- and if we so dare. Many, I suspect, feel that they "will always have Paris." Yes, they saw Casablanca, and from that they have an experience. But some of us, living in the remote mountains, actually go to Paris because of books, and in Paris look and know and see and feel the lives of our friends before us, and perhaps the lives of those who will follow us. Ah, Racine, you beautiful thing! Rimbaud, you're beautiful too. I know those men because of their voices from books and my feet on the ground they walked on. And they speak to me because I live a life in the real world of living men. books are a gift to me, and I use them as such, not as the whole of life but as a portal to life. That portal is open to the likes of me because of Bullock's totally cheap penny-dreadfuls. Thanks to Doc Savage I could turn to Liebnitz. And then beyond my little garden and into the world at large.

The Internet is similar: it's a portal to greater things if one has the will to know and the sense to think. Or one might use it to burn down the whole world. In that view I tend to understand what Charles and Truepeers refer to when they speak of faith. I think true and decent men will prevail, and that the Internet will be one great conduit to Human life in the pursuit of the Moral.

In the companion piece below I rail about educated idiots, and above Charles nails shooled fools. Honesty and the dedicated pursuit of truth don't automatically come from reading. But books can help if those who wish to use them rightly attempt it honestly. It makes a good man better able. And the rest of us might suffer less if we learn more, even if we don't get it straight away.

Yeah, I have faith, thanks to Doc Savage. Thanks to Bullock. And thanks to being alive in a world of sensible people who take time to teach in person.

truepeers said...

It may be worth reflecting on why the gnostic left is so indebted to the "hate speech is not free speech" mantra and why they would condemn writings like yours, Dag.

Their basic assumption is that all the conflicts in the world are somehow caused by invidious selfish forces (like "capitalism", or "Israel") that have escaped the mediation of the "international community" and all its experts, judges, and negotiators. Their basic assumption is that violent conflict is avoidable, or best limited, if only enough law can be brought to bear and reign in parties so that no one need negotiate with the reality of a knife at the throat.

On the other hand, the "hate monger" like Dag seems to assume that conflict is inevitable in the human condition and that the best way to deal with it is to bring it out in the open, to say, e.g., "Islam sucks" and see if anyone will step up to seriously debate and defend a different opinion. If that debate could happen, in many arenas today, then we would get a much more realistic understanding of where the real important differences lie in the present global conflict, and then we might have some hope of mediating them successfully. But first, Islam has to become accountable to its critics, and not sheltered by the ludicrous notion that criticism of Islam is some kind of taboo.

If, however, we accept the position of the gnostic leftists who would shout down all "hate speech", we are much less likely to ever understand the anthropology that truly underlies our conflicts. If we can't bring our differences onto a shared scene of debate, conflict, and honest struggle for a shared transcendence, we will be stuck in a fantasy world where endless experts mediate, trying to keep a lid on things, paying each other off, but never really getting to the existential heart of things. The "hate speech is not free speech" mantra is really a recipe for some catastrophic explosion down the road when the legitimacy of vigorous and vicious debate in the name of truth is abandoned and the system becomes increasingly dependent on human sacrifice to relieve tensions, unwilling to believe in any higher, universal truths.

It is better that we allow people to express their resentments than to pretend that resentments aren't necessary in the first place. What a shame that after a 100 million dead to "communism", we still live at risk of some global catastrophe wrought by utopian leftists, today ever more in partnership with the fantasy ideology of an Islamist imperialism that knows how to extort and blackmail those with no real moral centre because they lack the honesty to recognize the inevitability of hatred and conflict, and this honesty is necessary to learning any true morality and humility.